Signs (Pt. 7)

A cat watches me walk back to my house against the wind.

“Can you take the trash out?” my friend asks. “Tomorrow’s garbage day.”

I look at the white bag choked around the rim of the trashcan. It’s full. I put my backpack down, undo the knot, and pull up the bag.

I walk to the street and open the lid of the bin. I look inside. Someone once told me to be careful when I open the lids of trash bins because rats sometimes feed on leftovers inside. I drop the bag into the empty bin and close the lid.

“Did you eat?” my friend asks back inside.

“No. I’m going to make ramen.”

I fill a pot with water and put it on the stove. I pull a packet of noodles from a drawer, tear the packet, and empty the noodles into the pot. We watch the noodles unfold.


“Do you want an egg?”

She opens the fridge and pulls out two eggs. I open another packet of noodles and empty them into the pot.

“Isn’t you know who graduating soon?”


She cracks the eggs and lets the yolks spill onto the pan. I stir the noodles in the pot. Steam rises from the water. I open the window over the sink.

“It’s raining.”

“You got back at the right time.”

I pull two bowls from the cabinet and place them on the counter.

“I can cut some vegetables,” I say.

“No, I’ll do it. I don’t trust you.” She washes green onions in the sink and dices them. The smell of the onions mixes with the smell of the rain outside.

I turn off the burner and empty the pot into the two bowls.

She picks up a handful of diced green onions and drops them into the bowls. She waves her hand in and out of the steam, and the steam hugs her fingers.

“Are the eggs ready?”

“Yeah.” She scrapes off the eggs and slides them onto the noodles. I carry the bowls to the table. We talk about time, and meaning, and smallness.

Signs (Pt. 6)

“I’m going to miss her,” I say as we walk home in the rain, our hands in our pockets. I wear a hood. She doesn’t have one.

“Did you say goodbye?”


I trip and step in a puddle on the road. Water leaks through my shoes. She helps me back.

We walk under streetlamps. The lamps light the sidewalk in vague circles. I hear cars one road over, but there aren’t any on this one.

“When does she leave?”

“Tomorrow morning.”

“And that’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“No more?”

“No more.”

The sky screams. A plane flies over us from behind. It passes over the streetlamp and disappears into the clouds.


I turn.

“Look.” She points to the streetlamp.


Back two steps. She points.

“What am I looking at?”

“The rain.”

I catch the rain off the light of the streetlamp. White lines falling in and out of sight, like snow.

The roar of the plane is like an echo and fades as we watch the rain falling in the light.

Signs (Pt. 5)

She steps out of the car and pulls her jacket close. She feels something fall on her cheek. He gets out on the other side. They walk toward the water together.

“It’s cold.”

The waves watch them as they approach. They spread a towel.

“It’s going to rain,” she says.

“We have a couple of minutes.”

“We don’t have to leave.”

She yawns. She hasn’t slept much in the past few days. But she doesn’t close her eyes because she’s afraid that if she does she’ll fall asleep. And if she falls asleep she’ll miss it. Even without the sun, there’s still the sea and the strands of grass sticking out of the sand.

She sits with her hands in her pockets. A strand of her hair catches in her mouth. Her hood comes loose.

She walks toward the sea and stops just short of the water. It washes over the sand and over her shoes and recedes, leaving strips of foam, like tongues of seaweed, on the sand.

She pulls the watch out of her pocket. There’s rust between the links. She thinks that maybe it counts the fifty-ninth second twice.

The sea washes over her shoes again. She feels the water seeping in, suffusing her toes like a cloud of tea in a mug. It crawls up the sand and falls away.

A wind drifts in from the ocean.

Signs (Pt. 4)

The alarm goes off at 5:40. He turns over on the couch and turns it off. He pulls his feet under the blanket and closes his eyes.

She comes down at 6:00 and boils water. The kettle whines.

“Want some tea?”

“Please,” he says, putting on his glasses.

“What kind?”

“What are you having?”


“I’ll have that too.”

The blanket slides off. He leans back into the couch.

She brings a cup filled with darkening water. He loops the string of the tea bag around his finger and winds it around the handle. The warmth of the cup steeps his fingers. The tea dimples under his breath.

He offers to make eggs—the only thing he can make.

“We can pick up something on the way, if you don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind.”

“Grab some books.”

He sets his cup on the table and walks to the bookcase. He begins at the top, reading the titles, pulling one out here then slipping it back. Most are paperbacks, and almost all of them are creased deep along their spines. He collects a few and tosses them on the couch. Then he moves to the bookshelf on the other side.

“Borges or Calvino?” he asks.

“Hm. Borges.”

She pulls the blinds. It’s still dark, but he can hear the rain on the road.

She stuffs the books into her backpack. He pulls his sweater over his shirt and grabs his jacket and puts that on too.

They hurry to the car and dump their things in the backseat before sitting up front. He rubs his hands. She starts the engine and turns the heater on. The frost dies on the window. After a minute, she pulls onto the street, and he opens the book as the wipers smear rain back and forth across the glass.

Signs (Pt. 3)

“I have a gift for you,” he says and places an unwrapped cardboard box on the table. The box is small and cube-like. On the top in sharpie he’s written her name. She puts her book down and leans forward, looking but not touching.

“What for?”

“It’s an early graduation present.”

“Want me to open it now or after graduation?”

“It’s up to you.”

She leans back and smiled. “I’ll wait. Want some tea?”

“Sure. I’ll make some hot water.”

He fills the kettle and puts it on the stove.

“Do you want any?”

“Yeah, I’ll have some.”

He pulls two mugs out of the cabinet. One of them is yellow and green, and its rim is chipped. He runs his finger over the chip. It flakes.

The other mug is dark blue. The ceramic is uneven and glazed over. It’s cracked in three places, as if it had been dropped and broken, but the cracks have been filled with gold. He runs his fingers over the gold.

“What’s this?”

She walks over and cups the mug with her hands.

“My friend broke this mug a couple years ago. So he took the mug and repaired it. I don’t know where he got it done, but he brought it back like this.”

She puts it down, picks up the kettle, and pours water into the mug. He watches the water rise against the sides of the cup, above the gilded cracks. The mug doesn’t leak.

She drops a tea bag into the mug, loops the string around the handle, and hands it to him.

“Three minutes steep.”

He nods and lets the warmth steep his fingers.

Signs (Pt. 2)

The next morning the same old light bled through the clouds and between the spaces of the sun-bleached blinds where it died on the floor as “The Sad Cafe” played, and I turned in bed to silence the alarm.

I thought of Heidegger–“Only a god can save us now.”–and of Faulkner–“I don’t. I don’t! I don’t hate it! I don’t hate it!” The führer and the fury, or its cousin.

The sun neither sets nor rises. Instead we close our eyes and call it night while the earth is thrown by an abscess of light like moths by a flame who on passing too close fall from flight with torched wings, burning down the bowels of morality.

I realized that I would one day go blind if I kept reading in the morning without my glasses, so I got up, stepped into a hot shower and tried to wash the weakness from my eyes.

Signs (Pt. 1)

I dreamed I was wading barefoot down a river that led to the sea. I walked through knee-high reeds on stones contoured to the arches of my feet while guppies orbited my legs. I walked through a valley shrouded in fog, as the trees around me loosed their pine needles. I waded through water that continued to rise until I was wading neck-deep. Then the water rose over my head, and I held my breath and swam. My vision blurred, and I closed my eyes. When I came up for air, I was in the ocean and could not see land. Floating around me were objects. I saw a Ziploc bag with chocolates inside. Tangles of uprooted grass knotted together. Empty shaved ice cones. A violin bow. A Simon and Garfunkel album. And a photograph of a boy I used to know tied to a lawn chair beside the pool. I thought, What is this? The refuse of my past?

And I saw a hard-covered book that I didn’t recognize. I swam over and opened it. Inside, flattened by the damp pages, was a moth. When I picked the moth up, its wings fell apart.



I’m going to try something new this semester. I’m going to write a series of scenes throughout the year, which will be–or should be–thematically, if not narratively, continuous. I’ve decided to call it “Signs” for no good reason. The series will start with the next post.


I just gave the Educational Testing Service (ETS) about $750 to take three tests and to send 10 score reports.

I’ll be going to a conference in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in about two weeks. Takeaway: My friends and I have compiled an 11-hour playlist to listen to on the drive there and back.

Also: The National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing is coming to the University of Puget Sound the same weekend.

There are rumors about a new writing handbook called Sound Writing going around. I don’t know much about it, but I hear it’s free and has super cool graphics.

I recently read some good books. Alexander Chee’s Edinburgh, Percival Everett’s Erasure, Avishai Margalit’s The Ethics of Memory, and Jean-Pierre Dupuy’s A Short Treatise on the Metaphysics of Tsunamis come to mind first. Up next: Colson Whitehead, Michael Ondaatje, and Suzan Lori-Parks.

Bruce Hornsby’s Halcyon Days gets me through the week. Also, Little River Band. And I recently rediscovered this amazing duet between George Michael and Elton John.

I’m always tired but never seem to do anything about it. Love my bed more than most things right now. Sleeping with two blankets now. And still with the fan.

Getting sick of burritos. Will reconsider.


Been reading, lately, in object-oriented ontology. Sort of a new interest of mine. Introduced to it in class. Nothing overly difficult, though certainly nothing easy. Not a philosophy major. Need to remember that.

Been listening, lately, to ‘80s soft rock. Bread, Chicago. Also, the Eagles. RIP Glenn Frey. 

Also, Five for Fighting’s The Battle for Everything.

Been watching YouTube videos about abstract algebra. Of the “for Dummies” variety. Know very little about it. Didn’t take math higher than trig. But intrigued by the concept. Thanks, Karen Tei Yamashita. 

Sun. Sunburnt. Problems with tanning exacerbated. Lack of sunglasses = problem.

Been researching graduate programs for English. Anxious, in both senses of the word. 

More showers lately. Likely due to increased humidity. More showers of shorter duration. Not sure if singing getting on nerves of housemates. Will not ask.

Despite the rise in temperature, still sleeping with socks on. Sleeping well.

Bee Gees playing now. Need new earphones.

General sense of calm, despite the busy-ness. 

Supported friend in annual Luau. Miss home, of course. May or may not go home soon. Awaiting news.

The news is always slow.

10 Books to Read During the Semester

It can be hard to read for fun during the semester, what with school, work, and extracurricular tasks. With this difficulty in mind, here are ten books that, for one reason or another, are the perfect books to read in the free moments that you have this semester.

  1. Nazi Literature in the Americas, Roberto Bolaño
    • This imaginative (fake) encyclopedia features short profiles of imaginary pan-American writers, detailing their lives and notable works. The final entry, which is also the longest, became the basis for Bolaño’s later novel Distant Star, and the “Epilogue for Monsters” is a useful index of the breadth and depth of Bolaño’s vision.
  2. Labyrinths, Jorge Luis Borges
    • The shortness of the stories, parables, and essays in this collection makes it easy to read between classes. However, Borges’s compression belies the cerebral nature of the pieces, which, I urge, should not be taken lightly. The perfect book for the millennial “intellectual.” Also, a college student reading Borges is automatically cool.
  3. Atlas of Remote Islands, Judith Schalansky
    • The minimalism of Schalansky’s illustrations rival the lightness of her annotations, which capture enough of each island’s stories to entice the imagination, yet which never indulge the reader—a good thing, considering the time that you could lose reading about each of Schalansky’s islands. Schalansky’s Atlas also comes in a “pocket” version, making it both portable and super hip for the on-the-go college student.
  4. Please Look After Mom, Shin Kyung-Sook
    • A longer work on this list, though not overlong at 272 pages, Please Look After Mom is a fluid read, presented in five easily digestible sections with an exciting 2nd-person narration. The writing is affective without being affected and does not suffer from the artificialness of works in translation.
  5. Citizen, Claudia Rankine
    • Aside from the fact that you, as a culturally-conscious member of an often dubiously-conscious society, should read this winner of the National Book Award for Poetry, Citizen is slim enough to slip between your planner and your calculus textbook—though I’m guessing that you won’t be tucking this one away until you’ve finished it.
  6. Night, Dawn, Day, Elie Wiesel
    • Though they’re not the happiest, you’ll nonetheless breeze through these books, if only because of their innate gravity and propulsive force. Night, in particular, will project you, as if you were weightless, through to final sentence of the trio, from the darkness of night to the equal darkness of a tepid sun. (Gross. Did I really just write that sentence?)
  7. Saturday, Ian McEwan
    • Saturday takes place over the course of one day, which, by a conservative estimate, is the longest it will take you to finish this well-paced novel. It also features prose from one of the cleanest and graceful stylists writing today. McEwan’s command of a foreign medical language is as natural, and as trenchant, as if it were his own.
  8. This is How You Lose Her, Junot Díaz
    • I had the privilege of attending a lecture that Díaz gave at the university in 2013. His prose maps perfectly onto his personality, though this comes across of its own accord in the short stories of this collection. Light, but never insubstantial, reading for the busybody college student.
  9. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
    • Never as simple or as one-dimensional as its detractors make it out to be, The Old Man and the Sea is a literary goldmine. Themes ripe for interpretation include: individualism, symbiosis, the feminization of the sea (contrast with the gendering of the sea in Moby-Dick), the artistic/creative process, and the allusive co-termination of religion and the secular. And, of course, the lions on the beach.
  10. Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino
    • A petite book, consisting of visionary descriptions of various cities by Marco Polo to Kublai Khan, Invisible Cities is as much about language and meaning as it is about cities, and then some.